Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Rocket Rob" rides again!

Good Day Readers:

You may have noticed recently "The Rocket" dropped from view as if he were in the Witness Protection Program. CyberSmokeBlog attributed it to his involvement a year or two ago with a group of Conservatives who wanted to reopen the abortion debate yet again much to the disliking of Steven Harper so was shuffled off to the side. His name did reemerge last summer in connection with a election campaign app he'd developed.

Well, seems like "Rocket Rob" may have a slight problem.

Clare L. Pieuk
Bruinooge accused of conflict

Votes directly benefited his company, MP says

Mia Rabson
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
OTTAWA -- Winnipeg South Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge is defending himself against allegations he should have recused himself from voting on a bill that changed the Elections Act because it benefits a company owned by his wife.

Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms wrote to ethics commissioner Mary Dawson Monday to ask her to investigate whether Bruinooge and Saskatchewan Conservative MP Rob Clarke violated the Conflict of Interest Act because one element of the Fair Elections Act will make an app they helped develop "a more enticing product for political campaigns."

Both voted at least seven times for the Fair Elections Act at various stages of debate, said Simms.
"I think Mary Dawson has good reason to look at this," Simms told the Free Press in an interview Tuesday.

The app in question is called ProxiVote. According to a webinar about the app given by the Manning Centre last spring, ProxiVote is the brainchild of Bruinooge and Clarke. It is owned by a division of 6317414 MB Ltd.

Bruinooge's public disclosure to Dawson's office in 2013 identifies his wife, Chantale Bruinooge, as the director of that numbered company, and himself as an officer in the company.

Clarke lists himself as having "a nominal interest" in the company in his public disclosure summary.
Both the webinar and the ProxiVote website describe the app as being helpful for the ground game during political campaigns, keeping track of where volunteers and a candidate are door knocking, keeping lists of identified voters, including which party they support, and what their main issues are.

On election day, it can rapidly keep track of who has voted and help a campaign reach out as quickly as possible to supporters who have not yet voted. The voting day efforts to get identified supporters to the polls are often seen as one of the most critical elements of a campaign.

Until this week, an app like ProxiVote could only be used by candidate representatives outside a polling station. On Friday, the Fair Elections Act provision removing the ban on the use of mobile devices at polling stations will take effect.

It means candidates could use ProxiVote right in a polling station, making it more efficient as a voter-tracking tool.

Simms said that provision will easily make ProxiVote more appealing to campaigns for purchase, and Bruinooge and Clarke should never have voted for the legislation.

He said there are "a lot of theories floating around" such as this particular change was done specifically to allow apps like ProxiVote to be used, but said regardless of the intention, it has a clear benefit to the two MPs.

In the Manning Centre webinar, it was said the app has already been used by a few political parties and the U.S. Republican Party is looking at it. It is currently only available to right-leaning political parties, according to the webinar. It also was said it will likely cost $5,000 per riding association.
The Conflict of Interest Code for MPs prevents MPs from taking any actions (such as voting) that would further their or their spouse's private interests. Bruinooge told the Free Press Tuesday he has done nothing wrong.

"I don't view my vote as being inappropriate," he said.

Bruinooge said the change to allow mobile apps in polling stations is simply modernizing our electoral system.

Dawson's office told the Free Press on Tuesday it had received Simms' letter but offered no further comment.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2014 A1


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